The Heart Beet

When it comes to red, nothing is more vivid so than beetroot.  The deep and rich color of the beets brings to mind the image of blood, and indeed, there is an association!  Beets can help keep the blood vessels healthy.  Find out how…

High blood pressure or hypertension can be a silent killer, leading to heart disease, kidney failure and subsequent complications Lifestyle modification is very important to prevent and manage hypertension, and includes weight management, physical activity and a healthy balanced diet , low in sodium.

Recent research however has focussed on nitrates in food as being one of the potential hypotensive (lowering blood pressure) substances.  Nitrates are converted to nitric oxide in the body.  Nitric oxide relaxes and dialates the blood vessels of the arteries, thereby improving blood flow and reducing the blood pressure. Nitric oxide is important to prevent inflammation that is a primary cause of heart disease.  Foods rich in nitrates are therefore being studied for these benefits.

One of these includes beetroot.  A study published in the American Heart Association journal highlights the possible benefits of beetroot.  In the study, eight women and seven men with high blood pressure were given 250 ml of water or beetroot juice and their blood pressure was monitored over 24 hours.  The researchers found that those who drank beetroot juice experienced a drop in systolic blood pressure by an average of 11.2 points.  After 6 hours of ingesting the 250 ml of beetroot juice, there was an overall lowering of systolic blood pressure by 11.2 mm Hg.

Beetroots are high in dietary nitrates.  Of course there are many other fruits and vegetables that are rich in nitrates, including lettuce, carrots, green beans, spinach, parsley, cabbage, radishes, celery but the study has so far focused on beetroots.

It may be a good idea to include more beetroots in your menu, either in cooked or raw form.  The study included raw beetroot juice, so it is still not established if cooked or processed beetroot would have the same benefits.

Raw beetroot juice can be a tasty way to get some nitrates :  For this, blend together half cup carrot juice, half cup of grated beetroot, 3 to 4 strawberries diced, ¼ cup ice cubes, a teaspoon lemon juice, chopped ginger, little salt and sugar.  Add a dash of pepper if required or cinnamon powder.

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